Cuban President Raul Castro called for the U.S. to return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay during his joint speech with President Barack Obama Monday.
Castro’s statement came during Obama’s visit to Cuba, the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the communist country since 1959. The Cuban dictator had previously called for a return of the base during a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in January, saying no normalization of relations could exist “while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.”
The White House responded to Castro’s January statement two days later, saying Obama “does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down … but not the naval base.”
The U.S. originally obtained the 45-square-mile territory in Cuba through a treaty signed in 1903. Originally, it was used as a fueling station. The treaty was reaffirmed in 1934, and added a clause which says any termination of the lease requires the consent of both countries.
The naval base has been utilized by the U.S. military as a detention center for terrorists captured predominantly in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As many as 780 terrorists have been held in the facility, with 91 currently remaining.
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